In a desperate bid to save their government, the Maha Vikas Agadi (MVA) alliance of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress on Wednesday offered the post of Chief Minister to rebel leader Eknath Shinde. However, Shinde has rejected the olive branch, said sources. The BJP, on the other hand, is also holding talks with rebel MLAs in Guwahati and Shinde has been offered the post of Deputy Chief Minister if he helps the BJP to replace the MVA government in Maharashtra.
Amid day-long drama, Shinde had claimed to have 46 MLAs on his side and their number may rise. “Right now we have 46 MLAs with us, including 6–7 Independent MLAs. This number will rise in the time to come. As of now we have neither received any proposal from BJP nor are we holding any talks with them,” ANI quoted Shinde as saying.
All rebel MLAs, including 34 Shiv Sena and 7 Independent legislators, flew to Guwahati the capital city of Assam, presently ruled by the BJP, from Surat early Wednesday morning. Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil also left Surat for Guwahati along with Goval Dalvi, Manjula Gavit and other leaders.
With Shinde refusing to change his stance and chances of a possible rapprochement with Shiv Sena alliance getting remote as hours pass by, the fall of MVA government looks imminent. BJP has 113 MLAs in the state Assembly and if 41 rebel MLAs led by Shinde decide to change their allegiance, the coup may become a reality any time soon.
Earlier in the day, Maharashtra Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray, in a Facebook live, address showed his intent to resign from the post if any legislator from his party Shiv Sena demanded so. “If any MLA wants me to not continue as CM, I am ready to take all my belongings from Versha Bungalow to Matoshri,” the beleaguered Chief Minister said in his address. Versha Bungalow is the official residence of the Chief Minister. “I am ready to give my resignation to the MLAs. They should come here and take my resignation to Raj Bhavan. I am also ready to give up the post of Shiv Sena party head not on others’ bidding but on my workers’ bidding,” Thackeray added.
The announcement came amid the speculation that Thackeray might tender his resignation to the governor of Maharashtra and recom
mend dissolution of the state Assembly. Rajya Sabha MP and senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut had, in fact, dropped hints of this possibility earlier in the day. Interacting with media, Raut had said, “The maximum it may happen that the Assembly will be dissolved. We will lose is power at the most. We are not born for power only. We are talking to Eknath Shinde. I have asked him to come back.”
Thackeray made the address after negations with rebel Cabinet minister Shinde did not bear fruit. Striking a chord with the workers of his party Thackeray said that it was not about numbers but how many were against him. “If you (MLAs) say, then I am ready to quit the CM post. It’s not about numbers but how many are against me. I will leave if even one person or MLA is against me. It is very shameful for me if even a single MLA is against me,” he said.
Before the address, Udhav held a meeting with Shiv Sena leaders and legislators at his official residence on Wednesday evening, even though he has been diagnosed with Covid. Shiv Sena Chief Whip Sunil Prabhu had issued a letter to all party MLAs asking them to be present in the meeting.
The high-voltage political drama began on Tuesday morning after Shinde and a dozen Shiv Sena legislators went incommunicado. As the developments began to unfold, it became clear by the evening that Shinde had moved to Surat with 33 rebel MLAs, including three ministers, in tow. Thackeray sent his trusted lieutenant Milind Narvekar to Surat to negotiate, but all persuasions failed to cut any ice with Shinde, even though the Chief Minister himself had tried to prevail upon him.
Shinde was spotted at the Surat Airport in the wee hours on Wednesday with the entourage of 41 rebel legislators. “We have not left Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and will not leave it. We have been following Balasaheb’s Hindutva and will carry it further,” said the Shiv Sena rebel. Some of his fellow rebel MLAs, who tried to avoid media, were heard saying that they are leaving for Guwahati and want Shiv Sena to form government with BJP. According to sources, five Shiv Sena MPs could also join the rebel in Guwahati.
With the likelihood of Shinde joining hands with BJP, all eyes are now on the Maharashtra Raj Bhavan.